Day 11
October 9th, 2010
Moonshine Campground
Balsam,  North Carolina

I slept a little better last night, but still not the best.  We were not on the train today, that allowed us to sleep in.  Our plan today was a easy 125 miles or so, get back to the campground early, then off to the steakhouse in Waynesville for the annual steak supper.

Uncle Phil was forming up the train when I spoke to him, "we'll meet y'all at the steakhouse, when you see what time you're gonna arrive leave me a voice mail, we plan on getting back in early."  "Ok that'll work, see y'all then."  On that he headed out with about 15 bikes behind him.  Uncle Phil is a special guy to do what he does.  He gives up his time in the Blue Ridge to help those visiting for the first time,  I don't have the patience, and I feel selfish about it.  

We left out about 30 minutes after the train.  There were 6 bikes in our group, including my good friends Charlie Kingston of West Virginia, Ron Epperly, and Peter Menard.  It was good to ride with them again.  Our plan was to spend the morning on the Parkway north to SR 215, then catch 178 into Brevard by the backside. 

Home would be U.S. 276, and return via the Parkway.  I did this loop a few years ago, and recalled it as excellent riding, and just the right miles.  I like returning early on the last day to prepare for the ride back home.  I'd been on the road 12 days, and was looking forward to home.
I'll let the following pictures tell the story of our ride.
​This picture taken at the first Overlook north the of U.S. 19 entrance, just
a few miles from our campground.  We had another perfect day for riding.

More Blue Ridge beauty.  The deep green of summer starting to give
way to the browns and yellows of fall.

Over the years I've managed many pictures from the Balsam Overlook, 
but none on a more beautiful day.  The weather was warm and sunny,
and the sky cloudless.  What looks like a lake in the distance is actually
early morning fog trapped in a valley.

​The ST 1300 at the highest point in the Blue Ridge.
​A veteran of every Blue Ridge Gathering since 2001, the intrepid Ron
Epperly of Orlando, Florida, on his 1996 ST 1100.  This picture from a 
Overlook north of Balsam, and down in elevation.

After a morning of taking pictures and socializing on the Parkway we left it at U.S. 215 and enjoyed more great leaning to U.S. 178.  The road was great into Brevard but we were bogged down behind traffic for most of the 25 miles and not able to do much.

We ate lunch in Brevad, after fumbling around trying to locate the BBQ place.  I believe the name is Hog Heaven BBQ.  We had a great lunch, and then meandered back to the Moonshine Campground on 276 and the Parkway.  Just a great ride with good friends, everything was perfect, the weather, people, and the roads.

Our small group was back at the campground around 4.  I promptly packed a few items away, and checked my pictures.  I called St. Margaret's Queen of Scotland Catholic Church in Maggie Valley to confirm Mass times for Sunday.  I recalled it was early, but not the precise hour.  It was 8am, 7am Alabama time, "dang that's early," but I couldn't tell the Lord, reason I failed to go was because it was too early.  That excuse wouldn't fly.  I went ahead and set the alarm on the Iphone for 6am local time.
​A few of the tents at the Moonshine Campground.
Upon returning Peter Menard broke camp and headed back to State College, his son just announced his engagement, and he felt the need to get home.  He loaded out and decided to ride as far north as possible to make a short ride on Sunday.  I tried to talk him into staying, but his mind was made up.

Uncle Phil had left a voice mail they were at the steakhouse, and our group plus a few others headed that way.  "Hey, Uncle Phil and the train are at the steakhouse, if you want in were about to head out."

Steak dinner on the last night is a tradition of the Gathering.  It brings good Karma for the upcoming year.  We had a large group at the Sagebrush but the staff handled us well.  It was great.  The only blemish on the weekend was Alabama lost to South Carolina.

I recall lots of pictures taken at the Sagebrush, but for some reason I didn't take any.  I have so many pictures of past years that I couldn't see the point of adding more, but now I regret that line of thinking.  I estimate we had 30 riders at the steak dinner.

It was getting cool when we sauntered back out to the parking lot, the sun was almost gone, and it was time to get back to the campfire.  A few of us went across the street to top off our gas tanks for the ride home in the morning.

Back at the campground more war stories were told around the campfire, and even more emails were swapped as new friends were made.  The informal nature of the Gathering is what makes it so special, just a bunch of riders meeting up to ride and hang out.  Because I was leaving out so early in the morning I said my good byes before going to bed.  I was one of the last to leave the fire.  "Better get a shower and get to bed, early day coming in the morning."

The campground was quiet as I walked back to my tent after the shower, "guess everyone is in the bed." so I was quiet as I could be getting zipped up.  I put my headphones on but didn't last long, too sleepy.